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Durham e-Theses
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Northern Irish Elegy

MARKLEW, NAOMI (2011) Northern Irish Elegy. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis proposes that Northern Irish elegy is a distinctive genre of contemporary poetry, which has developed during the years of the Troubles, and has continued to be adapted and defined during the current peace process. It argues that the practice of writing elegy for the losses of the Troubles has established a poetic mode in which Northern Irish poets have continued to work through losses of a more universal kind. This thesis explores the contention that elegy has a clear social and political function, providing a way in which to explore some of the losses experienced by a community over the past half-century, and helping to suggest ideas of consolation.
Part one focuses on three first generation Northern Irish elegists: Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. Heaney is considered in a chapter which takes in a poetic career, through which might be traced the development of Northern Irish elegy. Following this are two highly focused studies of the elegies of Longley and Mahon. The place of artifice in elegy is considered in relation to Longley's Troubles elegies, while Mahon’s irony is discussed in relation to his elegiac need for community.
Part two looks at a second generation, represented by Ciaran Carson and Paul Muldoon. Carson's elegies for Belfast are read in a discussion of the destruction and reconstruction that occurs during the process of remembering. This study explores the idea that elegies might also be written for places and temporal spaces. Carson's interest in poetic form is shown to be intricately related to his elegiac practice. The chapter on Muldoon surveys a career which has interrogated the connections between art and suffering. Muldoon raises questions of poetic responsibility, and also challenges poetry itself, on a formal and linguistic level. As his career develops, he includes not only the local threats of Troubles violence within his elegies, but also the global threats of disease, violence and terror.
Part three starts with Medbh McGuckian, whose work is discussed in relation to the third generation poets Sinead Morrissey, Leontia Flynn and Colette Bryce. As McGuckian's poetry is perhaps the least immediately accessible of all the poetry covered here, the thesis considers ways in which her work might be read, before her poems are discussed as Northern Irish elegies. Following this are readings of poems from Morrissey, Flynn and Bryce, noting ways in which this generation works to develop the genre of elegy, working in the same broad themes that have been charted throughout this thesis.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Northern Irish, elegy, poetry, troubles, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Ciaran Carson, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, Sinead Morrissey, Leontia Flynn, Colette Bryce
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Apr 2012 15:05

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